Film Review: G.I. Joe: Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (1986)

Also known as: Action Force: Arise, Serpentor, Arise!
Release Date: September 15th, 1986 – September 19th, 1986 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Ray Lee
Written by: Buzz Dixon, Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Rob Walsh
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Sgt. Slaughter, B.J. Ward, François Chau

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 22 Minutes (per episode), 108 Minutes (movie cut)


“There can be no negotiation, you insignificant microbe!” – Serpentor

Season two of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero started the same way as season one, with a five-part miniseries that was edited and re-released into a feature length movie. In fact, this is the fourth and final miniseries in this canon. Although, I do look at G.I. Joe: The Movie and DiC’s Operation: Dragonfire as parts 5 and 6 of the original series of feature length films.

Arise, Serpentor, Arise! was the introduction to a lot of changes in the television series and the G.I. Joe franchise as a whole. It introduced us to a plethora of new characters, new vehicles and came with a seemingly more powerful threat, as Cobra created a new leader, had android troops and seemed to be finally getting their shit together, even if there was infighting between Cobra Commander and just about everyone else in his organization.

The biggest additions to the series through this story were Serpentor – the new leader and “emperor” of Cobra, General Hawk – the real commander of G.I. Joe and ranked higher than Duke, as well as Sgt. Slaughter – played by the real professional wrestler of the same name. We also got to meet new members of the G.I. Joe team, as well as some new faces in Cobra, most notably mad scientist Dr. Mindbender, who sort of erased the need for Cobra to have a slew of generic, one-off mad scientists in every episode.

Like the other big miniseries events before this one, we see G.I. Joe and Cobra fight all over the world in exotic locations, as there are separate pieces being collected to create another MacGuffin. The MacGuffin in this story is Serpentor, a super soldier that is sort of like a mixture between Frankenstein’s monster and Captain America if he were made for evil purposes. Cobra goes to all of these exotic locations trying to collect DNA from the tombs of famous tyrants and warlords throughout history. With all the DNA, they can create Serpentor, who is a combination of all of these historical figures.

I love these G.I. Joe stories where we get to see the Joes and Cobra duke it out all over the globe. As a kid, these big miniseries events always felt like something incredibly epic and special. This story, while not as good as The Pyramids of Darkness or The Revenge of Cobra, does not disappoint. It may feel a bit rushed and crowded with characters because there is so much going on but it still works in the same way it did with the earlier miniseries tales.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff.